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Five Nuggets thoughts, plus some tough words by Wolves' Edwards

The Timberwolves and Nuggets are getting ready to play what might be the most-anticipated of four NBA conference semifinal series and perhaps the best playoff series, period, in any round in the Western Conference.

The two teams split the regular-season series 2-2, finished within a game of each other in the standings and have had enough battles over the years to know each other inside and out.

To get ready for that series, I welcomed Harrison Wind, who covers and does a podcast about the Nuggets in Denver, onto Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast.

Here are what I consider the five most interesting takeaways about the Nuggets from our conversation:

*Jamal Murray hit the winning shot in Game 2 and Game 5 as Denver dispatched the Lakers in the first round. But he's also been nursing a calf injury, missed 23 games during the regular season and had some cold shooting nights against the Lakers.

"In the first round, he, he looked mediocre — pretty average even a little below average. ... He's definitely not 100% right now. He's definitely still banged up, Wind said. "That's really gonna be the determining factor for this team. If Jamal Murray is great, I think the Nuggets are unbeatable. If he's less than that, I think they are beatable this season."

That squares with what Anthony Edwards told the Denver Post: "I mean, without him, they're not good. It's just that simple."

*Having a two-time MVP who might collect a third award this year on your team is a good place to start in winning a championship, as Denver did last year. So what makes Nikola Jokic so good?

"He's smarter than every player on your team and he's smarter than your coach, too. That's kind of what it comes down to," Wind said. "He's seen every coverage. He's seen every defensive scheme at the highest levels, and he knows what to do in every situation. ... I don't think any defensive scheme works against Jokic over the course of a series. I think stuff can work for a quarter for a half, but then he'll figure it out. But, you know, Minnesota has enough different things that they can throw at him to make it interesting."

*The Nuggets won 53 games a season ago, which was good enough for the No. 1 seed in the West. They won four more games this season, but Wind's impression is that the Nuggets are not quite as strong this year. One reason: Their bench, which was a trouble spot last year, is even less trustworthy this year. That matters less in the playoffs when starters play more minutes and rotations are tighter, but it could still be a factor given the Wolves' impressive depth.

*Wind said there is still a lot of respect in Denver for Tim Connelly, who made a lot of the key moves that formed the Nuggets' championship core before leaving for Minnesota's top job in 2022.

"What Tim Connelly did here is he stayed patient. He built through the draft and he didn't skip any steps. There were a lot of calls throughout the early days to trade Jamal Murray for Kyrie Irving, trade him for James Harden and those deals were available to the Nuggets if they wanted him," Wind said. "But he stayed patient, he saw the vision, and ... I just have respect for how he saw the process through. He's brought a lot of that patience to Minnesota."

*The reward for that patience is what Wind said is the secret ingredient for Denver.

"The secret sauce is the continuity. It's the chemistry, it's the connectivity," Wind said. "Yes, they have the best starting five in the league. They have the best player in the league. They have one of arguably — historically and statistically — the biggest playoff risers ever in Jamal Murray. But the secret is, this is a real team, you know, and I think Minnesota mirrors this in a lot of ways as well. This isn't the Suns. This isn't the Lakers. This isn't a team that gets thrown together in the summer or at the trade deadline and just you throw those guys on the court and you try to win a championship. They've been through the battles together."